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Necessary Noise: Stories About Our Families as They Really Are

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A girl is terrified of her older sister's dual personality. A boy adjusts to his life with two mothers. A father visits his son on death row. These are stories of today's families as they really are.

Noted anthologist Michael Cart has asked celebrated young adult authors the question "What does 'family' mean today?" The ten resulting stories provide illuminating—and surprising—answers. Here family is defined by the connections between all kinds...

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Overview

A girl is terrified of her older sister's dual personality. A boy adjusts to his life with two mothers. A father visits his son on death row. These are stories of today's families as they really are.

Noted anthologist Michael Cart has asked celebrated young adult authors the question "What does 'family' mean today?" The ten resulting stories provide illuminating—and surprising—answers. Here family is defined by the connections between all kinds of people—and the necessary noise they make.

These are stories of today's families--fractured, blended, at risk, non-traditional, and some that are even still nuclear. Renowned author and noted anthologist Cart asked the most celebrated young adult authors the question "What does 'family' mean today?"

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Each of the 11 original stories here redefines the notion of family in 21st-century terms," according to PW. Ages 12-up. (Jan.). Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
This latest collection of ten original short stories gathered by the editor of Love and Sex (Simon & Schuster, 2001/VOYA June 2001) and Tomorrowland: 10 Stories About the Future (Scholastic, 1999/VOYA December 1999) is a fully satisfying blend of humor and heartache, examining that most inescapable of human contrivances: family. Families and family-like relationships of all breeds are represented here, including extended-family eccentrics, sadistic siblings, estranged fathers, and brother-friends. Joan Bauer's Hardware opens with the promising, "They tried to drag Aunt Phil from the street," later qualifying, "But she was angry and she had a hammer." Visit by Walter Dean Myers describes the bittersweet reunion of a father with his son, now on death row. Three of the selections by authors Nikki Grimes, Joyce Carol Oates, and Sonya Sones are composed in free verse. Oates's A Family Illness is a grief-stricken conversation between a mother and her teenage son, who is afflicted with mental illness; and Sones's Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde is an appealing tale of the older sister all readers love to hate. Snowbound, Lois Lowry's story of a family trapped indoors together, is certain to help all readers appreciate the escape of the outside world. This strong collection, with a variety of writing styles and voices, captures the push-pull relationships of young adults with the families that bind them. It is a great book to recommend to readers looking for a new favorite author, with its sampling of excellent writing, or for short-story fans who prefer a quick read with a lasting flavor. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High,defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Joanna Cotler Books/HarperCollins, 256p,
— Diane Masla
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-These short stories by recognized young adult authors are compelling examples of contemporary literature dealing with all types of family issues. The subject material varies from Walter Dean Myers's powerful description of a father visiting his son on death row to Lois Lowry's tale of a snowbound family reacting to a visit from their college-freshman daughter and her rude, unkempt boyfriend. All of the selections deal with contemporary situations and how these characters attempt to deal with whatever "family" means in their particular experience. Some of the families are fractured idealistically, some physically; yet all must find ways of coping. The stories are tight, characters are realistic, and situations are all too familiar for today's teens. Witnessing these characters as they resolve their problems will enable students to give voice to their own "necessary noise."-Susan Cooley, formerly at Tower Hill School, Wilmington, DE Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Cart’s assemblage of disparate, original tales examines the indispensable--sometimes merely unavoidable--clamor and clatter of the first village. His longish introduction provides perspective on family life and the quirky power of family relationships. An odd assortment of relatives fights for its small-town family business in Joan Bauer’s story, the lightest of the lot. In Norma Howe’s, a skeptical young father stretches his imagination to admit his younger sister’s religious view of the world. The terrors of families gone wrong are here, too: there is Sonya Sones’s frightening look at a deeply angry and abusive teenager from the point of view of her principal victim--her younger sister. Joyce Carol Thomas’s mother-son voices, in her account of a young man’s schizophrenia, vibrate with hope. Six poems from Nikki Grimes retell a Bible story with contemporary echoes. Walter Dean Myers’s narrator is a father in conversation with his long-estranged son, a young man who is in his final hour on death row. A strong, challenging collection by the best in the field. (Fiction. 13+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060275006
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/1/2003
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 256
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Past president of the Young Adult Library Services Association, Michael Cart is a columnist and reviewer for Booklist magazine. He is also the author or editor of nineteen books, including the gay coming-of-age novel My Father's Scar and—with Christine Jenkins—The Heart Has Its Reasons, a critical history of young adult literature with gay/lesbian/queer content. His anthologies include Love and Sex: Ten Stories of Truth and Necessary Noise: Stories about Our Families as They Really Are.

In 2008 he was the first recipient of the YALSA/Greenwood Publishing Group Service to Young Adults Achievement Award, and in 2000 he received the Grolier Foundation Award for his contribution to the stimulation and guidance of reading by young people. Mr. Cart lives in Columbus, Indiana.

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Read an Excerpt

Necessary Noise

Stories About Our Families as They Really Are
By Michael Cart

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Michael Cart
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006051437X

Hardware

by Joan Bauer

They tried to drag Aunt Phil from the street.

It shouldn't have been that hard.

To begin with she isn't too big.

Five foot four to be exact.

She isn't that young either.

Fifty-three as of last Tuesday.

But she was angry and she had a hammer.

The brand she'd just put on sale for $9.99. And she was raising that tool, spitting fury at a huge hole in the ground one block long; shrieking at a four-story gargantuan plastic Waldo head that was being erected right before her eyes.

Cali tried gently but firmly to get her inside, but there's just so much a teenager can do against an aunt with a hammer.

Lewis, Cali's half cousin, tried to help, but he always made things worse. "Everyone's looking at you, Phil. You want them to think you're crazy?"

Aunt Phil turned to him with half-crazy eyes. "The world's gone mad, Mr. Insight. Not me." She looked at Cali. "Am I right?"

Cali half squirmed. "Sort of, Aunt Phil. You're sort of right."

Aunt Phil had always been a fighter.

When the mayor had proposed a zoning tax on small businesses, Aunt Phil took to the streets, screaming that small business owners were going to fight back and defend their stores "with our bare feet if necessary."

"That's bare hands, Aunt Phil," Cali had whispered.

"Whatever." Phil stood tough.

When two shoplifters tried to rob her store blind, Phil cornered them with her turbocharged staple gun.

"Drop the merchandise, scumbags, or I'll staple your nostrils together."

Big Mel, Cali's partial uncle, called the police, who hauled those terrified thieves off to jail.

"You plot against the innocent, you pay!" Phil screamed, waving her staple gun.

"You're not innocent, lady!" one of the robbers shouted back.

But as Big Mel always said, "You never know what's going to make the glass run over. You never know what's going to split the last straw down the backside."

And what it was for Aunt Phil and Cali's family and Phil's Hardware Store and all the little family-run stores on Lattice Avenue was Waldo's SuperStore moving in across the street. One block long.

They had everything.

Groceries.

Hardware.

Paint.

Clothes.

Whatever a human being needed, Waldo's had it.

At discount prices.

No small store could survive when a Waldo's came to town.

Aunt Phil raised an angry fist at the Waldo's truck as it rumbled by.

"You think you can just move in here with your big muck trucks and tear out my heart in public? You think God is not going to judge you for putting up your establishment right across from where my father, may God rest his soul, built this store brick by brick by the sweat of his person?"

Cali cleared her throat to keep Phil honest. The store wasn't made of brick and Aunt Phil's father, Andrew, who was Cali's great-uncle, paid his sister's second husband, Wilfred, to build it.

"This is sacred ground, you morons!"

Store owners on Lattice Avenue were coming outside to see what all the racket was about.

Lester Malloy from Lester's Grill.

Mrs. Caselli from the bakery.

Mr. and Mrs. Toole from AAA Extermination and their no-good son, Weston.

They stood there and let her rail, like a family with a crazy relative who no one can keep quiet.

When you've been through what these store owners had been through, everyone on the street was like family.

Weston scratched his stomach and half leered at Cali. Cali always suspected that AAA Extermination's key weapon against rats was Weston. One look at Weston and any self-respecting rat would run for cover.

Phil put her hammer down. A good sign.

Lewis moved closer. Gently picked up the hammer.

Aunt Phil let Cali guide her inside. When a person has spent thirty minutes screaming at morons, it takes a lot out of you.

Big Mel had finished four glazed doughnuts, almost without chewing. He sloshed the coffee in his mug, took a slurp, and said, "Look, we can't fight it. Waldo's has offered us not much to sell the store, but it's either that or die, slowly bleeding in the street."

Big Mel was Aunt Phil's half brother.

Most relationships in Cali's family were explained by fractions.

"I don't bleed in public," Phil announced, whose role in the family was to dispute whatever Big Mel said.

"We're not going to get anywhere this way," Cali's mother said. Cali's mother's role in the family was to try to help people be reasonable. It was a lonely job.

"He's happy to sell out to pirates!" Aunt Phil screamed.

"Pirates don't give you money," Big Mel shouted back. "They steal."

Aunt Phil said that was her point exactly.

Cali was standing back from the kitchen table as she always did when the family had a meeting. She tried to be like her mother -- look at both sides. But these sides were too different. Her whole family was different. She was most like her mother, but she didn't have the patience. She wasn't anything like Phil -- no one was -- she and Lewis were from different planets. And Big Mel was sick of the store, sick of hardware, and just wanted to sell, get out, and move to Boise.

"Okay . . ." Her mom took out a legal pad and started making a list. Making lists made Phil nuts because she never agreed with what got on the list. Big Mel didn't like lists someone else made.

"So how come you're so all-fired sure we've got to sell?" Phil shouted at Mel. "Because I worked it out."

"Where?" Phil already knew the answer.

Big Mel pointed to his big head. "Here."

"And because of what's in your empty head, you want me to hand over the legacy of my father and his father before him, who had to flee from Cossacks to give us this home in a free land?"

Big Mel ate another doughnut. "They got on a boat from Ireland, Phil. There are no Cossacks in Ireland."

"Cossacks are everywhere," Phil growled and turned to Cali, who refused to make eye contact.

Continues...


Excerpted from Necessary Noise by Michael Cart Copyright © 2005 by Michael Cart. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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First Chapter

Hardware

by Joan Bauer

They tried to drag Aunt Phil from the street.

It shouldn't have been that hard.

To begin with she isn't too big.

Five foot four to be exact.

She isn't that young either.

Fifty-three as of last Tuesday.

But she was angry and she had a hammer.

The brand she'd just put on sale for $9.99. And she was raising that tool, spitting fury at a huge hole in the ground one block long; shrieking at a four-story gargantuan plastic Waldo head that was being erected right before her eyes.

Cali tried gently but firmly to get her inside, but there's just so much a teenager can do against an aunt with a hammer.

Lewis, Cali's half cousin, tried to help, but he always made things worse. "Everyone's looking at you, Phil. You want them to think you're crazy?"

Aunt Phil turned to him with half-crazy eyes. "The world's gone mad, Mr. Insight. Not me." She looked at Cali. "Am I right?"

Cali half squirmed. "Sort of, Aunt Phil. You're sort of right."

Aunt Phil had always been a fighter.

When the mayor had proposed a zoning tax on small businesses, Aunt Phil took to the streets, screaming that small business owners were going to fight back and defend their stores "with our bare feet if necessary."

"That's bare hands, Aunt Phil," Cali had whispered.

"Whatever." Phil stood tough.

When two shoplifters tried to rob her store blind, Phil cornered them with her turbocharged staple gun.

"Drop the merchandise, scumbags, or I'll staple your nostrils together."

Big Mel, Cali's partial uncle, called the police, who hauled those terrified thieves off to jail.

"You plot against the innocent, you pay!" Phil screamed, waving her staple gun.

"You're not innocent, lady!" one of the robbers shouted back.

But as Big Mel always said, "You never know what's going to make the glass run over. You never know what's going to split the last straw down the backside."

And what it was for Aunt Phil and Cali's family and Phil's Hardware Store and all the little family-run stores on Lattice Avenue was Waldo's SuperStore moving in across the street. One block long.

They had everything.

Groceries.

Hardware.

Paint.

Clothes.

Whatever a human being needed, Waldo's had it.

At discount prices.

No small store could survive when a Waldo's came to town.

Aunt Phil raised an angry fist at the Waldo's truck as it rumbled by.

"You think you can just move in here with your big muck trucks and tear out my heart in public? You think God is not going to judge you for putting up your establishment right across from where my father, may God rest his soul, built this store brick by brick by the sweat of his person?"

Cali cleared her throat to keep Phil honest. The store wasn't made of brick and Aunt Phil's father, Andrew, who was Cali's great-uncle, paid his sister's second husband, Wilfred, to build it.

"This is sacred ground, you morons!"

Store owners on Lattice Avenue were coming outside to see what all the racket was about.

Lester Malloy from Lester's Grill.

Mrs. Caselli from the bakery.

Mr. and Mrs. Toole from AAA Extermination and their no-good son, Weston.

They stood there and let her rail, like a family with a crazy relative who no one can keep quiet.

When you've been through what these store owners had been through, everyone on the street was like family.

Weston scratched his stomach and half leered at Cali. Cali always suspected that AAA Extermination's key weapon against rats was Weston. One look at Weston and any self-respecting rat would run for cover.

Phil put her hammer down. A good sign.

Lewis moved closer. Gently picked up the hammer.

Aunt Phil let Cali guide her inside. When a person has spent thirty minutes screaming at morons, it takes a lot out of you.

Big Mel had finished four glazed doughnuts, almost without chewing. He sloshed the coffee in his mug, took a slurp, and said, "Look, we can't fight it. Waldo's has offered us not much to sell the store, but it's either that or die, slowly bleeding in the street."

Big Mel was Aunt Phil's half brother.

Most relationships in Cali's family were explained by fractions.

"I don't bleed in public," Phil announced, whose role in the family was to dispute whatever Big Mel said.

"We're not going to get anywhere this way," Cali's mother said. Cali's mother's role in the family was to try to help people be reasonable. It was a lonely job.

"He's happy to sell out to pirates!" Aunt Phil screamed.

"Pirates don't give you money," Big Mel shouted back. "They steal."

Aunt Phil said that was her point exactly.

Cali was standing back from the kitchen table as she always did when the family had a meeting. She tried to be like her mother -- look at both sides. But these sides were too different. Her whole family was different. She was most like her mother, but she didn't have the patience. She wasn't anything like Phil -- no one was -- she and Lewis were from different planets. And Big Mel was sick of the store, sick of hardware, and just wanted to sell, get out, and move to Boise.

"Okay . . ." Her mom took out a legal pad and started making a list. Making lists made Phil nuts because she never agreed with what got on the list. Big Mel didn't like lists someone else made.

"So how come you're so all-fired sure we've got to sell?" Phil shouted at Mel. "Because I worked it out."

"Where?" Phil already knew the answer.

Big Mel pointed to his big head. "Here."

"And because of what's in your empty head, you want me to hand over the legacy of my father and his father before him, who had to flee from Cossacks to give us this home in a free land?"

Big Mel ate another doughnut. "They got on a boat from Ireland, Phil. There are no Cossacks in Ireland."

"Cossacks are everywhere," Phil growled and turned to Cali, who refused to make eye contact.

Necessary Noise. Copyright © by Michael Cart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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